Tunisia unemployment nears 19%
By Monia Ghanmi for Magharebia in Tunis – 07/03/12
The Tunisian unemployment rate reached 18.9% in the fourth quarter of last year, with nearly three-quarters of jobless citizens under the age of 30.
The rate marks a 0.6% rise from the second quarter of 2011, according to data released by the Tunisian National Institute of Statists (INS) on February 23rd. The total number of jobless Tunisians was reported at more than 738,000, a jump of 33,500 people.
The unemployment rate among those with university degrees increased significantly, reaching 30.5%, versus 29.2% during the same period, numbering 8,242 people during the last quarter of the year.
The figures also showed that the unemployment rate was higher among women, reaching 28.2%, up 0.8%, compared to 15.4% for males, itself an increase of 0.4%.
Unemployment rates vary across the country, with the results highlighting that the southwest has the highest rate, estimated at 29.5%, followed by the southeast with 27.2%, then the mid-west with 26.9%, and finally the northwest with 22.3%. The lowest unemployment rate was recorded in the northeast, at 14.5%.
According to the same data published the INS, 62% of jobless Tunisians have been out of work less than a year, with nearly a fifth unemployed for one to two years.
The nation's unemployed young people are waiting impatiently for authorities to tackle the problem.
"We do not want to be thrust into fragile employment programmes like internships and exploitative contracts or the adoption of handout methods," commented Aymen Zbidi. "We will be patient until the state provides us with permanent jobs."
Since taking office late last year, the government has sought to provide more employment opportunities and encourage investment.
Vocational Training and Employment Minister Abdelwahab Maâter promised in 225,000 new jobs this year in multiple media appearances. His plan calls for the private sector to provide 50,000 jobs and the public sector 25,000. Meanwhile, 150,000 jobs will come through technical co-operation with Qatar and Libya.
The employment minister believes that under current prevailing conditions in the country, it is not possible to accommodate all of the unemployed, despite government efforts. He said the problem was structural, related to corruption and a pattern of faulty development put in place by the old regime.
"The Tunisian Ministry of Employment does not claim a final solution to the problem of employment, as the current economic situation does not accommodate that, in addition to the government facing about 800,000 unemployed," the minister said.
A national employment conference is expected in April, during which mechanisms will be developed to reform the system. The unemployed are counting on the conference to produce positive results.
"I hope this conference will see intensive participation by all actors of civil society in their different orientations so we put hand in hand and look at ways to address the problem of unemployment," said Sorour Kaàbi.
On the other hand, many of the jobless believe addressing the issue requires the creation of an unemployment compensation fund financed by the institutions as well as by workers. The state and civil society organisations would contribute to the fund, acting as a bridge for the unemployed to help them overcome their difficulties until they find a job.
"We are today in urgent need of this fund, the creation of which would doubtless support all those who have not obtained a job opportunity, and the unemployed will thus benefit from it in meeting life's requirements," said Nabil Marouani.
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